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Within the expansive fields of the Romanian countryside lies a small village called Bogdon cradled in a small sloping valley. The village seems a chaotic cluster of rough stone houses that tilt at odd angles. Streets and crammed alley ways jut out where one wouldn’t ever imagine them to exist. Their cobblestones are covered with slippery substances and gloomy decay.
Surrounding the dreary town is never ending fields of brilliant flowers of every shape and size. Poppies gleam a cheery cherry, tulips cover the fields in rainbows, and irises seem to glimmer. As the field fades to treacherous mountains, deep blood roses radiate an alluring aura pulling wanderers up the dangerous path.
The mountain that looms over the town holds a dark, menacing stone castle. Villagers fear the castle and its dreadful Count within. A frightening tale is told among the villagers of this Count, of how he became a creature of Satan at the time of his untimely death by drinking human blood. Travelers, those that come, are always warned to stay away from the castle and it’s Count. Many heed the villagers’ words, but there are few who fancy themselves brave and strong, those that walk the perilous path to the top of the mountain where the gothic castle spires tower over them and the gargoyles glare down at them from the rooftops. As morning comes the day after the travelers have gone up the mountain, no one sees or hears from the traveler. Then, or ever again.
It is a dreary day in the fall and no travelers have come for many moons. Not a good sign for the villagers. My father is worried that without travelers to purchase our merchandise we will not have enough supplies to get through winter. We own a small thread shop on the edge of the village near the stunning flower fields Bogdon is famous for. Travelers who come here find many holes mysteriously appearing in their clothing due to our terrible insect problem, so our store is the first place they come.
To make the thread we sell, we own twenty sheep. My mother shaves them in the summer, and then I wander out to the flower fields and gather flowers of every color to make the dye. While my mother creates the thread I mix the colors, and when she hands me the thread, I dip them each one by one into different colored dye. When we finish that we take out wooden spools my older brother has prepared and we carefully wrap the thread around them.
I had been waiting for my mother to come out of her room to tell me what colors we needed for dying today when my father bustled through the door with a new demand. “Adelina, I know what we need!” He declared. “We need a new color of thread, one that is rare and delicate. Fit for a king!”
I didn’t even need to think, “Purple, a deep violet.” I said dreamily.
“That’s it! Go my child and gather the flowers you need to create the dye and hurry back!” My father turned back the way he had come calling for my mother to arise.
I slowly got to my feet and grabbed my gathering basket. My emerald cloak hung above my boots in a small room near the door. I laced up my small boots and swung my cloak around my shoulders and then swept out the door and onto the street.
The sun barely peaked above the dismal clouds so it was still dark over the fields despite the mid-morning hour. I found the rich blue Forget Me Not’s in the middle of a clump of orange Geraniums. As I began filling my basket with the clumps of little blue flowers I glanced around in search of a red that would create the perfect purple.
I could use the poppies, they were so bright I could see them clearly shinning in the semi-darkness, and they were only a few feet away. But then my eyes landed on the dark beauty of the infamous roses said to be tended to by the feared Count of the cursed castle upon the mountain’s peak. Their dark beauty was as alluring as ever, and I knew in my soul that only those roses could create the purple my father so desired. I would just have to make the dye before my father could catch sight of the roses I would use or else he would forbid me to go near the fields ever again for fear of the Count kidnapping me.
Slowly and steadily I rose from the patch of Forget Me Not’s and Geraniums. I eyed the village over my shoulder to make sure no one was out and about that would see me as I went to the roses. The coast was clear so I dashed as quickly as I could to the roses. As I approached I noticed how beautifully the roses framed the path up the mountainside. So far as I could tell they followed the path all the way to the castle.
I knelt next to the nearest rose bush and began carefully removing the flowers from their thorny stems. As I did so I couldn’t help but look up at the castle. It may be feared by everyone with good sense, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a magnificent structure. Looking at it carefully I even envied the old Count who resided within its cathedral like walls.
Not paying close enough attention to the roses, I accidentally nicked my finger on one of the thorns. I gasped in pain and sucked my injured finger, as I did so I caught sight of a strange sound coming from the castle. Its foreign melody lured me halfway to the path up the mountain before I caught myself. I shook my head and turned back, but then I realized that no one had seen the Count of the castle since my great grandmother’s time, and if the legend held true, the Count would be asleep during daytime hours. I could go up and investigate the castle without any worry if I didn’t stay long.
Without stopping to contemplate my decision I hurried up the treacherous path to the top of the mountain. The road curved sharply and rocks slipped from the edge every few feet, but I didn’t encounter any obstacle that made me think to turn back. And when I finally reached the top and stood before the castle, my breath caught in my throat. It was even more beautiful than I had previously thought. The spiraling towers, wicked arches, and terrifying gargoyles held their own dark beauty that even the most frightened person would have to appreciate.
The doors at the front of the castle had to be at least fifty feet tall and forty feet wide. They were carved like any church doors I had ever seen in books. I looked around the courtyard before me and saw that the roses covered every path. That’s when my ear caught the haunting tune that had lured me up here. It was coming from the path ahead of me that wrapped around the right side of the castle, the cliff side.
I hesitated a moment before following the sound. As I traveled down the rose path my heart hammered in my chest. The path grew darker as the castle wall blocked what little sun was shining, but then the path widened and the light returned as I entered what must have been the castle’s own rose garden.
It was stunning, and the tune pulled my gaze to a tall man with his back to me tending a tall spiraling rose bush that had grown wrapped around the trunk of a magnificent tree. Cautiously I approached the man from behind, all the while listening carefully to the alluring song he was humming. I stopped just a few feet from him and his humming stopped. He turned to face me and my heart stopped.
He was stunning. The man wore black pants of fine leather and tall boots to match. And his white shirt was cleanly pressed under his long read coat. His long black hair fell freely around his shoulders, his bangs sweeping mysteriously in front of his eyes. Skin of pale porcelain stretched youthfully across his perfectly chiseled face. Long lustrous black lashes framed eyes of the most perfect and bizarre coloring I had ever seen. His eyes were the exact shade of violet my father wished to create.
This angelic man’s full lips parted in a small smile and a deep and wonderful voice flowed through, “Welcome to my castle. How may I help you?”
For a few seconds I couldn’t think, all I could do was gape at him. Then my brain registered what he had said, “Your castle?” I asked stupidly.
“Yes, I am the Count of this castle.” The man spoke gently.
My blood froze. “How can that be?” I scrutinized the Count before me looking for any small sign of extensive age. I knew that according to legend this man was a vampire, but even so, he should look older than twenty.
“I’m afraid I am quite a bit older than I look Miss.” He laughed, “But I am the Count that has always owned this castle.”
I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. I simply stared at the Count in shock and horror. It was daytime, he was supposed to be asleep. This was something I hadn’t considered before coming, and now I probably would never make it down. There wasn’t much hope for me escaping with my life, but I had to try. “I apologize for disturbing you Sir,” I said politely with a curtsey.
The Count’s smile widened, “Do not apologize, it is nice to have a visitor once in a while. My name is Count Vlad Dracula.” Vlad extended his hand towards me.
“Adelina Arcos, it is nice to meet you Count Dracula.” I smiled nervously and reached out to take his hand. He grasped mine and flipped it over to kiss the top of my hand. My blood was cold but I felt a deep blush coming to my cheeks. No one had ever kissed my hand so formally before.
“And you as well Ms. Arcos. So, what prompted you to follow the path? It couldn’t have been just my roses, I know your village has legends of me.” Vlad’s smile turned cold.
His coldness confused me for a moment. He seemed almost heartbroken that he was thought of as a monster. “I just wanted to get a closer look at the castle.” I said quietly.
Vlad nodded absently, and then he looked directly into my eyes and held my gaze. “Do not lie to me Adelina, please. Do you wish to know if I am what your legend says I am?” he looked at me so calmly I thought I had dreamed he asked it of me.
“I-” in his eyes I saw something that compelled me to tell the truth, “Yes, I do.” I stammered, knowing he probably put me in some kind of trance.
Vlad sighed, “I will not lie to you Ms. Arcos, as you have not lied to me. The rumors your village spreads are true. I am a vampire.”
My heart dropped, I was standing before a vampire who would surely drain my blood in a second. It was what I had feared when I first saw him, yet all I could ask was, “How are you out at this time? It’s far from night.”
That made him smile, “That may be so, however no sun is shining and so I may walk freely among my castle without worry. It is only the sun that plagues me, not the daytime itself.”
“Do you really devour anyone who comes here?” I blurted without thinking, my fear getting the best of me.
Vlad’s face darkened menacingly. “No,” He grumbled. Then his eyes cleared and a sadness crossed his features. “I admit that I have done horrible things in the past, and I will not try to justify them to you. Just know that I have not harmed a single human within the past two hundred years.”
“Two hundred years? How have you survived?” I asked.
“I may be a vampire Ms. Arcos, but I have found that I can survive in this world on the blood of animals. I try not to feed too often, but it is better that I take one animal rather than multiple humans.” Vlad visibly grimaced at the thought of animal blood and my heart went out to him.
Animal blood sounded like a horrible thing to be forced to live off of for hundreds of years. “Don’t you ever tire of animal blood?” I asked.
Vlad smiled grimly, “Yes, it’s awful.”
I thought about that. If he didn’t like animal blood, wasn’t there another way to survive? “Is there any way to drink from a human without killing them?” I asked.
Vlad’s eyes flashed brightly as he glared fiercely into my eyes. “Drinking from a human and letting them live is not something I would wish upon anyone.”
“Why?” I wondered aloud. I mean, I imagined there would be some pain, but how horrible could it truly be?
Vlad smiled faintly and looked at me carefully, measuring each word he spoke. “If I were to bite a human, they would experience the greatest pleasure this world can offer.”
“I don’t get how that’s so horrible…..” He was beginning to confuse me. None of what he just said sounded bad at all.
“Are you married, Ms. Arcos?” Vlad asked quietly.
I felt a blush cover my cheeks and I looked to the ground. I was eighteen, by this age I should be married with a child on the way, and yet I was still living alone with my parents. “No, I am not.” I admitted faintly.
I looked up at Vlad curiously, a question coming to my lips. His face was set and he was ready to answer my question before it even made it to my tongue. “If I were to bite a girl like you, a virgin, she would instantly fall into an unbreakable trance. She would never wish to leave; she would never do anything other than sit and wait for me to drink from her again. Imagine if I was to unknowingly drink from multiple innocent women, they would all wander aimlessly around my castle until the day they died.”
Now I was beginning to understand what he was saying. Enslaving someone was far worse than killing them because they would lose their free will. “I see. But now what? Now that I know all of this, what will you do? Just let me go back to my village with all this knowledge?”
“If you wish to return, I see no reason to keep you here.” Vlad shrugged.
I was startled, I hadn’t expected him to let me go. But then again I hadn’t expected any of this from a vampire as infamous and bloodthirsty as the Great Count. “Oh, um, okay.”
“It was a pleasure to speak with you Adelina, I hope to see you again someday.” Vlad scooped up my hand and again kissed it. He then bowed deeply before turning back to his roses.
I turned to leave, but something stopped me. I looked back at Vlad and I realized that I wanted to come and see him again. “Vlad?” I asked hesitantly.
He turned and raised his brows in question, “Yes?”
“Would it be alright if I came back tomorrow for another visit?” I asked shyly as a blush crept back to my already warm cheeks.
To my relief, Vlad smiled brightly and nodded. “Of course, I look forward to seeing you again.”
I smiled at him one last time before turning and walking back down the path to Bogdon. I was late getting back and would have to quickly mix the dye before my father decided to come and check on me. As I went about grinding the flowers and boiling the water I allowed my mind to wander back to Vlad. The thing that kept returning to my mind was how he had described being bitten: “Experience the greatest pleasure this world can offer.”
A blast of boiling water shot up and jolted me back to reality. I shook myself from thoughts of Vlad and went back to focusing on the work at hand. The flowers were mashed enough to be thrown into the boiling water now, so I threw them in and began stirring the dye with a long handled wooden paddle.
As I sat staring into space while I stirred, my father burst out the back door and smiled brilliantly at the pot I sat in front of. “Our new dye is coming along well I hope!” He boomed in a proud voice.
I smiled and nodded, “Of course. It should be the most perfect color to lure customers.”
“Good, good.” My father said absently as he observed my workplace. His face suddenly darkened and a glare replaced his at ease smile. My head jerked in the direction he was looking and I blanched. “Adelina, would you care to tell me why there are thorns in your flower basket?” My father asked tautly.
I didn’t know what to say, “The patch of poppies I found were close to where the roses start, some thorns must have blown in.” I spoke convincingly.
He didn’t buy my story, “Let me see the dye, Adelina.”
I looked down at the floor and stepped back so my father could have a look. He picked up the paddle and raised the dye to his eyes. The purple was rich and dark, the perfect shade, a shade that no poppy could ever produce. My father turned to me, his face red with anger. Before he could begin yelling I consoled him, “Papa, please. You said you wanted the richest shade of purple, a purple fit for a king. Poppies can’t create that kind of purple, only roses can! You and I both know that, I did what needed to be done!”
My father’s face relaxed and a tight smile came to his face. “You sound like a girl defending herself in court for committing some atrocity. My girl, I know what you say is true. But do not ever go near the roses again, do you hear me?” I nodded and my father sighed. “Now finish the dye and then come in for lunch, your mother has made a meat pie.”
I turned back to my dye as my father left and put out the fire beneath it. I brought the paddle out of the dye and looked at the beautiful violet color I had created. The color mesmerized me, and all I could think to describe its beauty was: “It’s the exact color of his eyes…..”
I was awoken in the middle of the night by a horrifying shriek. I bolted upright and dashed into the kitchen. My brother was already lighting candles with a match. He looked up as I rushed in and nodded, “Grab your cloak if you are coming out.”
I nodded and grabbed my cloak and stuffed my feet into my boots not even bothering to lace them up. My brother and I then sprinted out into the street and found the whole village gathered at the edge of the flower fields. “What’s going on?” I asked my mother who had materialized out of the crowd.
“The Count has attacked!” My mother panicked. “Two hundred years of peace and now we are reverting back to the old days of terror!” My father came to soothe my worried mother.
“Fane, get your sister home and keep the doors and windows locked.” My father said to my brother.
My brother nodded and grabbed my arm. I pulled it back, “Why?” I asked.
“You must be protected from the Count!” My mother wailed.
“Why would he come after me?” I asked my mother.
“You know perfectly well why.” My father answered tautly.
And I did know why. The exact reason Vlad said that he could never bite a girl like me. I was still pure. “We should give Adelina to him! Maybe then he will leave us alone!” The baker’s wife shouted.
I turned to her and saw the fear in her eyes. She had three young girls around my age. “No, you will not sacrifice my only daughter to that monster!” My mother screamed at the woman.
“Anca, please. If we give him one then maybe he will leave us alone.” The baker pleaded with my mother.
“No! The Count is wounded! He will devour her in seconds!” My mother was sobbing now.
My blood froze. “Wounded?” I asked silently. A group of men moved to the side as I stepped forward and I saw the bloody trail at their feet. It led up to the castle. I felt my eyes widen in fear, what would happen to him if I didn’t go? Vlad could die if the wounds were as severe as the trail led me to believe. “Mother, I have to go.”
I heard her gasp and I turned to look her in the eyes. She was sobbing even harder now, “
No! You can’t! I’ll never see you again!” My mother ran to me and hugged me tight.
“I have to go Mama. I can save all the other girls, and the village won’t be plagued any longer.” My mother pulled away and reluctantly nodded when she saw that I would go no matter what. She kissed me on the cheek. “You will see me again Mama. I promise.” I whispered to her.
My father and brother each embraced me warmly before stepping back. My father held my mother close and my brother looked me straight in the eye. I nodded to them and turned to follow the blood trail. As I walked away I heard my mother begin to wail for me to come back. Tears fell hotly down my cheeks, I kept walking.
When I was far enough away from the village I began to sprint up the mountain path. Fear gripped my heart like an iron fist. “He can’t be dying. I won’t let him die! Vlad! Please! Wait for me! I’m coming!” I thought all the way up the path.
I reached the front doors and they swung open the second my foot hit the bottom step. A small old man walked out onto the steps. He held a sword, and he aimed it at my heart. “Please,” I panted. “I came here for Vlad! Please let me help him!” The man faltered. He narrowed his eyes suspiciously as he looked me over.
He must have seen the tear streaks on my face. And I was still wearing my nightgown now torn by the rose’s thorns. He nodded and put his sword away. “Follow me. The master is in his chambers.” He spoke slowly.
I rushed up the stairs after him and we bounded to where Vlad was. When we reached the room I heard a pained gasp through the large oak doors we stopped in front of. Tears sprang to my eyes and I had to claw my palms to remain where I was. I looked to the man who had brought me up here. “Go in.” He bowed to me and slowly backed down the hallway.
I took a deep breath and quietly entered the room. It was dark; the only light source was from the moon and a single candle at the other end of the room. Black velvet curtains draped across the top of the enormous four poster bed and hung from the window like wings of a dark angel. My eyes fixed on the figure slumped over the vanity table by the only candle in the room. Pained violet eyes met mine in the cracked mirror. “Adelina.” Vlad whispered. His hair was plastered to his face and his white shirt hung loosely over his shoulders.
I ran to him. He slowly turned to face me and leaned back against the vanity. I flung myself into his arms, ignoring his grunt, and hugged him tightly. “I am so sorry! This shouldn’t have happened!” I cried.
“It’s alright. I strayed too close to the village. A farmer was understandably frightened.” Vlad winced.
I pulled away from him and looked down at his abdomen. His shirt was half torn off and the gashes on his stomach were gruesome. “What happened to you?” I gasped.
“The farmer decided to grab and pitch fork as a weapon.” He grimaced.
“Where are your medical supplies? I’m not the best doctor, but I can patch you up decently.”
“It won’t do any good.” Vlad shook his head and leaned farther back. He looked down at me and his purple eyes flashed. His eyes suddenly closed and he sucked in his breath.
“You need blood.” I said quietly.
One of his eyes opened. “I can get it later.”
I shook my head, “No. You need it now.”
“And where do you suggest I get it?” Vlad asked sarcastically.
“Drink from me.” I said without hesitation. My conviction must have shocked him because he sat up and looked at me intently.
“You know the side effects. You know you won’t be able to leave. You may never even be able to think again. Why would you offer your life to me?” Vlad asked quietly.
“Because my life is mine to give, and my heart is mine to give. And I choose to give them both to you.” A blush crept into my cheeks and I felt tears fall, blurring my vision.
Vlad’s mouth opened in shock. Then he looked into my eyes and saw that I held no fear in them. Then, he laughed. A dark chuckle. I was confused, then he looked back at me and I saw a single tear fall down his stone-like cheek. “I guess it is true then. A beauty really can love a beast.” He smiled at me and my heart lifted.
Vlad silently opened his arms to me and I stepped into them. They closed around me and pulled me close. I reached up and untied the top of my gown. Releasing it just enough that the color fell lower, exposing my throat. I felt Vlad smile as he dipped his head to my neck. “I love you.” I whispered to him.
“And I love you.” Vlad murmured. He kissed my neck softly. Then he bit me. His fangs slipping under my skin like missing pieces of a puzzle. My world shattered around me.
Colors flew in every direction. The world spinning out of control in the most wonderful way I could have ever imagined. I moaned and pulled Vlad closer, his fangs sinking all the way into my neck. The colors whirled even faster, the world spun around me in brilliant patterns. I felt Vlad lead me across the room and he fell with me onto his soft bed. Too soon his fangs left my skin, I tried to pull him back but his hands caught and held mine fast. “You need rest. I will not leave you. I promise.” He kissed my hands and lay down next to me.
I pulled myself closer to him and curled up against his smooth again chest. I was happier than I ever thought possible. And Vlad was right, I didn’t want to leave, but not because he bit me. I didn’t want to leave, because I loved him. “Vlad, can I stay with you?” I whispered.
His arms tightened in fear, “Why would you want to stay with me?” His question was careful.
“Because I like it here. I like the roses and the architecture. And it’s peaceful here. And, because I love you.” I looked up into his stunning eyes and the smile that spread across his face was like the heavens opening on the earth.
“Of course you may stay with me my Love.” Vlad leaned down and kissed me softly. “I love you.” He whispered as he lay back down and tucked me against his chest.
“I love you too.” I whispered back as I snuggled next to him.
In seconds I was asleep curled up with Vlad and drifting into the most peaceful world I had ever known. I never did go back to the village, breaking the promise I made to my mother. But eventually they all moved on and life returned to normal. I spent my days with Vlad in the rose garden, or in the library, or on walks through the forest.
A few weeks after he bit me Vlad proposed and we were married. Three months later I was pregnant with our child. Vlad believed we would have twins, saying he could sense two minds growing. And it turns out he was right. Soon after our son and daughter were born Vlad asked me if I would live with him forever. Two nights later I became a vampire. Our children Alin and Violeta were born half vampire, though as they grew they both chose to live amongst the humans.
Vlad and I have watched our children grow up and start their own families. And here we remain. In our gothic castle atop a rocky cliff in the midst of Romania’s most wonderful flower fields. A place untouched by time. And here we will remain for all eternity in one another’s loving embrace.